Being a best mate doesn’t always work out for the best. Sometimes, our
personal friendship qualities can lead to us being trapped in a role we
didn’t ask for, and don’t particularly enjoy.
Recently, Girls Aloud’s Nicola Roberts was reported as saying she was tired of
being the band’s “therapist”, always the shoulder to cry on through the
others’ life dramas.
Behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings says Nicola is not alone in feeling fed
up with her default friendship type.
“We all slip into certain roles in our friendship circle, and while this is
natural, it’s not always healthy – for your own personal development, or for
your relationships,” she says.
So which friend type are you, and how can you make sure you don’t get trapped
in that role?
The Counsellor aka Nicola Roberts
Depression (Sarah Harding), broken engagements (Sarah and Nadine Coyle) and
career crises (Cheryl Cole) – it’s all kicking off around Nicola. No wonder
she finds herself sorting out her mates’ problems all day long.
Sound familiar? You’re the first person people call when they’re having
a rough time, which is gratifying. But you can’t lie: it’s tiring, and
sometimes you find yourself shelving your own problems to deal with a
Jo says “You’re considerate, patient and happy to listen at any time
and offer non-judgemental, practical advice, along with the sympathy card.”
But it’s easy to get caught in the trap of simply being the one everyone
turns to. “And it can be damaging and disheartening in a friendship to only
hear the negative,” she says. Plus it’s not always a good thing to allow a
miserable mate to ruminate for hours on her dodgy ex…
Break free “If it’s something important, relate to your friend’s
concern, but say that you’re in (or have been in a similar situation) and
then turn the tables to ask them their advice,” suggests Jo. “And if the
conversation gets too heavy, try bringing something more light-hearted into
the chat – like: ‘Don’t worry, we’ll find you a hot new man on Friday night’
– cheering your mate up and lightening the tone.”
Role swap Try changing from counsellor to “cheer-upper”.
The organiser aka Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwynnie is the ultimate event organiser, whether it’s a soirée at her private
members’ club or a celeb offspring playdate at her London pad. And she loves
to dispense lifestyle advice on her website Goop.com.
Sound familiar? You send out all the emails, book the holiday, and when
the restaurant bill arrives everyone looks to you to divide it up. It’s nice
to feel needed, but sometimes it’s too much pressure.
Jo says “Chances are you’re efficient, calm and in control.” But you’re
in danger of becoming “the Alpha friend – the one who is expected to make
all arrangements and also take the flak if anything goes wrong. Always being
in control can mean you lose your ability to step out of your comfort zone.”
Break free “First, identify a ‘second-in-command’ to take over the
reins sometimes,” says Jo. Next, identify people’s strengths and allocate
tasks based on that. For example, ask a friend with a desk job to research
flights in her lunch break.
Role swap Be a “delegator”.
The drama queen aka Katie Price
She’s loud and proud, and we’d much rather hit the dance floor with Katie
Price than Kate Middleton. But we aren’t surprised that her need to be the
focal point has sent her mates packing…
Sound familiar? You can’t stand to be left out in the cold, and this
leads to some unimpressive behaviour, like flirting with friends’ boyfriends
or butting in if a mate is holding court for once.
Jo says “This may be a question of low self-esteem, but this
attention-seeking also stems from a feeling that you have to live up to the
expectation that you’re the life and soul of the party.” Newsflash: Your
mates won’t go off you if you turn down the volume a little.
Break free Be honest with yourself when you’re playing up to your rep,
and surprise people by being sweeter and quieter. Jo adds, “And if drinking
amplifies this behaviour, then stick to the OWOW principle: one water, one
wine.” Start scheduling brunches with close mates instead: your friendships
will be closer for it. And your head will hurt less.
Role swap Earn a “fun friend” tag.
The needy mate aka Lindsay Lohan
Remember when Li-Lo wasn’t in the throes of a crisis? Us neither, so we can’t
blame her celeb mates for moving on.
Sound familiar? Your mates rallied around you when you had a tough
time, but now they need a break from your whingeing. They’ve clocked that
you’re not bringing any fun to the relationship.
Jo says “On the plus side, you’ve got strong friendships,” says Jo.
“But you’re in danger of becoming an ‘emotional vampire’. Not quite ‘me me
me’, but more ‘woe is me’, which can be draining. If you’re guilty of being
emotionally needy, negative and high-maintenance, snap out of it, sharpish.”
Break free Before anything comes out of your mouth, ask yourself if
this is a glass-half-empty statement. And try a simple 50-50 trick: are you
doing more than half the talking? If so, shut up!
Role swap Be a “sensitive supporter”.
PHOTOGRAPHY: FILMMAGIC, GETTY IMAGES, REX, WIRE IMAGE